Like many ground covers, creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum) takes its time to become established. This sturdy plant, which thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, eventually reaches a width of 12 inches to 3 feet, depending on the variety, with a height of 2 or 3 inches. Don't expect it to reach this size during the first season after planting, though.
Creeping thyme's name aptly describes it. This plant doesn't scramble, romp or scurry. It creeps slowly. In fact, it might not reach its mature spread of 12 inches to 3 feet for two or three years. Don't let this slow growth discourage you. Creeping thyme makes a sturdy evergreen ground cover for those places where few plants grow.
How you care for creeping thyme can influence its growth rate. Creeping thyme is a bit like a weed, growing best with a little benign neglect. Creeping thyme thrives in full sun. It needs light, sandy soils and prefers dry conditions. Too much water can slow growth or even kill creeping thyme. Don't overfertilize creeping thyme. A slightly infertile soil is actually better for it.
Unlike other thyme varieties, creeping thyme's leaves aren't aromatic, meaning that this plant isn't suitable for culinary use. It does make an excellent ground cover for sunny walkways. Try it in rock gardens or spilling over walls in hot, dry areas. Because creeping thyme is tolerant of drought and poor soils, it's a good choice for the edge of your property or other hard-to-reach areas.
In spite of its slow growth, creeping thyme has many redeeming qualities. It suffers few insect or pest diseases. The plant produces small, tubular blooms of pink, red, white or lavender in summer that attract bees and butterflies to your garden. Thyme has been found to have a compound, thymol, that can be used as a topical antiobiotic, according to the Herb Society of America. If you'd prefer a thyme with culinary value, you'll find many well-suited varieties. Try French (Thymus vulgaris "French") or English thyme (Thymus vulgaris "English"), or citrus-scented varieties (Thymus X citriodorus).
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